Children’s charities are urging the Government to rule out further welfare cuts amid Brexit uncertainty, after it was revealed child poverty rose by 200,000 last year.
The official UK numbers show 3.9 million under 18’s – 29 per cent of all children – were classed as being in poverty, the first increase since 2006.
The households below average income (HBAI) statistics for 2014/15, published by the Department for Work and Pensions last week, were described by charities as ‘hugely depressing’ and resulting from austerity cuts.
And some 66 per cent of impoverished children were from working families – a hike of four per cent on the previous year.
The report coincides with speculation that the Prime Minister David Cameron’s life chances strategy, aimed at tackling child poverty, may have been put on the back-burner amid his resignation.
Some had expected the strategy to be published last Friday, the day after the referendum.
Matthew Reed, chief executive of The Children’s Society, said that ‘austerity has bitten hard’, and with potentially ‘life-changing consequences’ for children.
He added that the four-year freeze to tax credits already in the pipeline would ‘only make things worse’.
Mr Reed continued, ‘The situation is made even more stark by the economic uncertainty that the country faces after last Thursday’s referendum result.
‘Children did not have a role in that decision and their interests must be safeguarded first and foremost when deciding what happens next.
‘Whoever ends up leading the Government must rule out further welfare cuts in another emergency budget that would punish the poorest families and inevitably drag more children into poverty.’
Alison Garnham, chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said, ‘In the week we heard the Government is shelving its life chances strategy, we now know more children are facing the harsh reality of growing up poor in the UK today.’
Ms Garnham said the figures reinforce expert projections that UK child poverty is set to rise by 50 per cent or more by 2020.
Worse still, recent legislation, through which the Government created the Life Chances Act and effectively repealed the Child Poverty Act, ‘eliminates its target to reduce child poverty’, she added.
‘Our children cannot afford for the Government to be distracted by Brexit and lose control of child poverty,’ continued Ms Garnham.
‘A decade ago, when David Cameron became party leader, he promised that under his leadership his party would measure and act on child poverty.
‘It’s a tragedy that we are now talking about rises in child poverty not falls.’
‘Working families need a clear and adequately funded plan to tackle the low pay and high housing and childcare costs that expose so many parents to hardship.
‘Families with children and our economy need the Government to start delivering on its promised all-out assault on poverty.’
A Department for Education spokesman said that business was continuing ‘as normal’ and that further detail on forthcoming announcements would appear ‘in due course’.